After months of waiting and delay, the US Census Bureau finally released its final count of the country’s population and, with it, the states that will gain – and lose – congressional seats for the next decade.
The decennial process of reallocating the 435 House districts among the 50 states using population growth (and loss ) – known as reapportionment – is the official beginning of each state’s redistricting process, in which the lines of each congressional seat are redrawn to deal with the census results.
The top line? A half-dozen states will gain at least one new seat in 2022, with Texas the lone state – see what I did there? – to gain two districts. Other states – predominantly in the upper Midwest – will lose a House seat for the next decade.
Below, some of the biggest takeaways from the Census Bureau announcement.
* The South and West continue to seize more and more population (and power) … : All six states gaining House seats – Texas, Florida, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and North Carolina – are in the two regions of the country that we have seen grow fastest over the past three decades. Since the 2000 census, for example, Texas has gained eight seats while Florida has gained five and Arizona and Georgia have picked up three each. In fact, of the 13 states that have gained seats in reapportionment since the 2000 census, all 13 are in either the South or the West.
* … while the Rust Belt continues to leak seats: Of the seven states losing a district following the 2020 census, all but two – California and New York – fall within the onetime manufacturing heart of the country. Pennsylvania has lost four seats since 2000, as has Ohio. Michigan is down three. Ditto Illinois. The biggest loser of seats in the past three decades, however, is New York, with five.
* The electoral map doesn’t change all that much: The expectations – and projections – going into this reapportionment were that the electoral map would move in favor of Republicans because of major expected gains in Republican-friendly territory like Texas and Florida. But Texas gained only two seats and Florida just one – in each case one seat fewer than most people had thought they would. The shifts are still more helpful to a Republican presidential candidate come 2024 – but only marginally so. “If the 2020 election had been held under these new counts, Biden would have won with 303 [electoral votes] (instead of 306),” tweeted the Cook Political Report’s House editor David Wasserman. “Under most projections, he would have won with just 302 votes, so Census result is a tiny bit better for [Democrats] than expected.”
* The long California boom is no more: For much of the past five decades, California has been the population engine of the country. As Scott Wilson of The Washington Post noted in a terrific piece on the Golden State over the weekend: “Beginning in 1960, the state population grew by more than 30 percent each of the next three decades, a rate that peaked in the 1990 Census, which found California’s population had jumped 37 percent over the previous 10 years.” The state’s congressional delegation grew rapidly, too. It went from 30 seats in the 1950s to 52 seats just five decades later. But in the last 10 years, California’s population grew by 6.1%, well below the national average of 7.4%.
* Texas is the new political superpower: Sure, Texas gained two seats as opposed to the three that most people had expected. But the addition means that the Lone Star State will have 38 House seats – and 40 Electoral College votes, beginning to rival the ongoing might of California (54 electoral votes in 2024). But that’s only part of the story. While Texas remains a state that favors Republicans (former President Donald Trump carried it twice and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were both reelected in the past four years in hugely expensive races), Democrats have clearly made inroads over the past decade. (Trump won the state by just 5.5 points in 2020, compared with George W. Bush, who won Texas by 23 points in 2004, or Mitt Romney, who won it by almost 16 points in 2012.) The increasing competitiveness of the state when coupled with its ever-increasing swat within Congress makes Texas the single most important state, politically speaking, over the next decade.
* Little Rhode Island isn’t so little!: For much of the past few years, the sort of people who follow the reapportionment process closely (read: nerds like me) have expected that Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country by area, would lose one of its two House seats – relegating it to a single-district state like Wyoming, South Dakota and Delaware (among others). But no! In maybe the biggest surprise of the reapportionment announcement, Rhode Island will keep both of its House seats. Which is a major relief for Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, who were expected to have to face off against each other for the state’s single seat. Somewhere Buddy Cianci is smiling.